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XVIII

Spoken: Story and Dialogue

Nicolette was very upset, as you have heard. She commended herself to God and walked quickly to the forest, where she dared not plunge into for fear of wild animals and snakes. She curled up in a thicket and sleep took her. She slept until the next morning. Around eight o'clock, child shepherds left the town and herded their animals between the woods and the river. Withdrawing in the direction of a really good spring at the edge of the forest, they laid out a cloak upon which they placed their bread.

While they were eating, Nicolette woke up to the cries of birds and of the child shepherds; she rushed towards them:

"Dear children," she said, "may the Lord God help you!"

"May God bless you!" replied the child who could speak better than the others.

"Dear children," she responded, "do you know Aucassin, the son of Count Garin de Beaucaire?"

"Yes, we know him well."

"In God's name, dear children," she said, "tell him that there's a beast in this forest that he should hunt: if he could catch it, he wouldn't give up even one of its limbs for a hundred gold marks, not even for five hundred, or for all the gold in the world."

They looked at her, she looked so beautiful to them that they were struck in astonishment:

"Me, tell him?" said the child who spoke better than the others. "Never speak of the devil or repeat what he says! You're talking about fantasies: a beast that precious can't be found in this forest. Neither stag, nor lion, nor wild boar, has limbs worth more than two deniers, or three maximum, and you, you're talking about a mountain of gold! To the devil with you, I will never repeat that to him! You're crazy, we won't come near you again, go on your way."

"Ah! my dear children," she replied, "yes, you will do it. The beast has such virtue that it will cure Aucassin of his wound. I have here five pennies in my purse: take them, and tell him this; before three days have passed, he must go hunting; if he does not find it in those three days, his wound will never be healed."

"In truth," he replied, "we'll take the money: if he comes here, we'll tell him, but we won't go looking for him."

"By the grace of God!" she said.

She then took leave of the child shepherds and walked away.

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